State Comptroller Susan Combs says ISD's statewide are less than open with the public when it comes to the costs of building schools, and the costs of construction can vary more than $200 per square foot for secondary schools, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
She says her study of 835 new campuses built in the last several years, which amounted to $15.6 billion in new construction, the costs range from a low of $76 per square foot to a high in excess of $270.
She says there needs to be some sort of uniform system for building schools, and for reporting the costs of that construction to the taxpayers who are paying for it.
"When you don't have a requirement anywhere in the state to report this information, that mans you can't, as a concerned citizen, compare those costs across regions,” Combs told Newsradio 1200 WOAI.
Combs singled out the metro San Antonio area for particular criticism for failing to watch costs in school building construction.
The new Judson High School in the Judson ISD is the second most expensive new school built during that time, at a cost of $97 million. Northside ISD's Brennan High School is the fifth most expensive in the state, at $88 million.
Combs, who is retiring at the end of this year, called on the Texas Education Agency to do a better job of monitoring construction efficiency, building a more robust inventory of existing facilities, and let the taxpayers easily compare costs.
"This is a tax bill that is being footed by the taxpayer, whether it is from your local property tax, or the state taxes are paying it," she said.
Combs was particularly critical of so called 'green' enhancements in school construction, and claims by ISDs that green technology will save taxpayers money on utility costs. She says these cost savings are never substantiated, and she says it should be up to the private sector, not ISD's to 'experiment' with green technology.
She says the geography of school construction is also frequently questionable.
"They build a new school in a high growth area, and you end up with the worst of all possible worlds," she said.
Combs says school districts also should work together to come up with one standardized template for construction, to save money.
Combs had praise for the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD near Houston, which she says has done a good job of holding down school construction costs.
She also says taxpayers should be told before approving a bond issue exactly how much will be spent building each school, and how those costs compare to the standard costs of construction of that type of school building.